This is what I said to Will Self about his comments on Open Book: where he spoke about the threat to libraries – BBC (1:07 to 10:44:) –
Dear Mr Self,
I was astonished by what you said about libraries as it seemed that you do not really have an understanding of the role of libraries or what they do. I am the Chair of a group called Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries, a group which has been working hard to save our libraries from draconian 43% cuts.
I invite you to come and visit some of our libraries and some of our thousands of supporters and users of these libraries. Our libraries are heavily used, are a lifeline for many and the centre of community cohesion. Despite your claim that events do not happen in libraries, hundreds of them are held in our libraries each year, from the hugely popular summer reading challenge which 11,129 of our children took part in, to housebound clubs for the elderly, to numerous and varied cultural events.
You said that the internet should be excluded from libraries. It is hugely worrying that you are advocating such an approach. 4/10 in Glos don’t have the internet. libraries play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide. Information is information no matter the format + to exclude people from it because you think libraries should be about paper is astonishing. You said that the authors who are speaking up for libraries are being sentimental…I have to say I think that it is you who is stuck in the past!
These authors are speaking for libraries as they have a public profile and are in a position to voice the concerns and anger of those, like me, who are not being listened to by our elected representatives who are destroying our public libraries. I was extremely grateful when Joanna Trollope wrote a piece in support of us in the Guardian. It raised our profile and put pressure on a council who are not listening to us and who are making very ill-thought out, disproportionate and damaging cuts. Unlike you, Joanna Trollope is invited to do events in libraries a lot and has been very supportive of our libraries in Gloucestershire. Her piece was far from sentimental but she had listened to us and knows what libraries mean to ordinary people – unlike you it seems.
3 million visits were made to libraries in this county last year – which is far from insignificant. In times of economic crisis + high unemployment libraries are now more important than ever.
With friends like you libraries do not need enemies! I wish you had more regard for the people who rely on libraries when you made such ill-informed and damaging comments. I invite you to come and visit us in the hope you may change you mind.
On Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 8:22 PM, Will Self wrote:
Dear Ms Anderson What exactly do you object to? That I said libraries didn’t hold enough events? Perhaps I was referring to my own local libraries – not all of them. That I said libraries should eschew the internet? You hardly answer the point I made, which is that the internet can be inimical to the concentration needed to read seriously. That I said that some of the authors prominent in the campaign received a hefty public subsidy through the Public Lending Right? This is merely a statement of fact. You should concentrate your fire – and ire – on the legislators, not me.
Yours &c. Will Self
I made it very clear what I object to. You, a public figure, undermining on the radio, the work of people trying to save important services, based on personal observations masquerading as generalisable fact.
You fail to answer any of the points that I made.
Our invite stands
I did start to compose a lengthy response to Mr Self but ultimately thought there was little point. He should listen on iPlayer to what he said rather than what he seems to think he said. The “legislators” he tells me to concentrate my “fire and ire on” are exactly the people who are not listening to me, hence high profile authors being welcome to step in….which was exactly the point I was making and one of the several points that he completely misses. Oh well, I tried.